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19.07.10 | My thoughts on iOS4
Filed under: Computer — Tags: , , , , — Dr. Ivan @ 16:48 — Comments (1)

So, a couple of days ago this firmware upgrade was released and I was of course eager to try it out. Read on to find out how it went!

The Upgrade

The upgrade itself was unfortunately not as straightforward as I had hoped. This, admittedly, was not due to Apple’s way of making easy things complicated – on the contrary it was rather my hamhandedness. Since I am virtualizing Windows on top of Linux there was apparently a problem with the Linux kernel drivers accessing the device at the same time as the upgrade procedure was under way – which, needless to say, failed miserably. I was left rather dismayed and was forced to look up some obscure error codes on the net. My frustration was mainly due to the simple fact that I thought that settings I had backed up beforehand in iTunes from my pod were only system settings – so, I thought, all application-specific configs, game saves, documents uploaded to iSilo and GoodReader were lost.

I was nonetheless intent on bringing my pod from the state of being bricked and fortunately found a post detailing the fact that rmmod-ing some usb-related drivers were a possible solution. Which indeed it was – however doing a ‘rmmod usbhid’ prevented (as expected) my USB-connected mouse and keyboard from working. Being a huge computer nerd who never throws away anything I quickly fixed the aforementioned hickup with a couple of USB-to-PS/2 adapters. Finally, I was able to upgrade the firmware successfully.

You can now picture my surprise after discovering that after restoring my backup ALL my settings were restored to how I had configured them, also the app-specific ones. So, despite my utter despise of iTunes, Apple actually did something right.


If one should believe Apple, more than 100 new features have been implemented. I am not sure whether this applies to iPhone only, but iPod Touch users have definitely been cheated out of at least 90 of these. By and large – this was an hugely underwhelming upgrade implementing only a handful useful features. Perhaps the two most redeeming new additions were folders and multitasking, however the latter was also of dubious usefulness in its current state.

Let’s go through the main features one-by-one:

  • Folders. This feature is long awaited, fairly well-executed and almost necessary if you have more than 20 apps. That, mind you, coming from someone who has almost 200 – just imagine the nightmare of having to organize them before iOS4. Now they are neatly categorized on just 3 screens: first with the most essential shortcuts, and the two other containing only folders with various less-used apps.
  • Multitasking. Sounds great, right? This was THE feature everyone was waiting for – finally Android fanboys wouldn’t have anything to brag and make flamewars about. Well, no – Androiders still have something no Apple has got. The multitasking capabilities of iOS4 are so limited that they might not even be there. Sure it conserves battery, but gives little else in terms of user experience. I am however glad that has Spotify been upgraded to support multitasking – perhaps the most sorely needed feature for this app. Otherwise there is really nothing to comment on here: iOS4’s multitasking in the grand scheme of things does not amount to more than a “recently used” item list. Which is by no means bad – but slightly disappointing nonetheless.
  • iBooks. Very nice addition to the already huge app library. However only Gutenberg books are available, with no covers and very poor illustrations. I mean no disrespect to Project Gutenberg, but my big question I guess is: Why use this when we’ve got Kindle for iOS anyways? It has a far superior quality and number of books. Thus the only competitive point here can be price – which is really currently hard to judge as there aren’t many paid-for iBooks available. Also: the fact that this app has to cache the whole book when opening it is maddeningly annoying.
  • Flight mode.Why on earth would this be necessary for an iPod? As far as I understand it only turns Bluetooth and Wifi off simultaneously – which you can perfectly do manually by just flicking the switches off for the given features.
  • Spell check. Surely nice feature, but to me personally it appears to be just in the way – like the autocomplete. Fortunately can be turned off.
  • Wallpaper. It is a great mystery as to why this has not been implemented earlier. I can remember way back when the Nokia 3210 came out – a hugely popular phone, had two-color LCD screen with minuscule resolution but still had interchangeable wallpapers – and that was in 1999. God I feel old now :(
  • Playlist rename. Again, why wasn’t this implemented in iOS1?
  • Some new animations. Which are of usual Apple quality. They are certainly welcome, however add only so much to the iPod experience.

Bugs, bugs, bugs

Yes, there are a number of bugs. Applications that worked before now crash – which has probably more to do with the fact that developers need to get a move-on to update their apps to the newest OS version, but still – I did expect some degree of backwards compatibility. My iPod also feels slower and animations are at times sluggish.

Among the built-in apps Safari has suffered the most regressions. To name the most annoying:

  • Screenshots of pages are now not always saved between browsing sessions – now I am presented with white pages when browsing through open tabs. It worked flawlessly on iOS3 – so I do have a feeling this has to do with the otherwise almost non-existent multitasking hogging up too much RAM forcing Safari to deallocate images between sessions.
  • Mediawiki pages are not rendered properly: Menu on the right hand side appears below the page itself
  • Want to enter text into a text box on the net? You are out of luck if what you are about to enter does not fit in the box itself – because then, instead of scrolling the text box, Safari lets you merrily type below it (that is outside its bounds) and makes the text appear underneath page contents. So scrolling is not working at all.


It is thus a great mystery why this release earned a major version bump – perhaps asides from the multitasking, which as already mentioned is only a strictly limited feature. Nonetheless it is a step in the right direction – folders being as unavoidable as they are. Furthermore I do believe that as time goes by, more apps will add support for multitasking and using it in some innovative way making this feature useful to a larger extent than what is the case currently. We can at least hope – otherwise there is always Android.

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1 Comment »

  1. avatar

    [...] a substantial upgrade to iOS, which actually does not account to much – as I explain in my more detailed blog post. Only a couple of the new implemented features appear to be useful, but more bugs [...]

    Pingback by News Of The Month (June 2010 Edition) « Dr. Ivan's Blog — 19/07/2010 @ 16:49

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